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June 25, 2013

MAUREEN HAYDEN: State pot debate won't blow away

ACLU: Blacks often nabbed for possession

I grew up in a city of potheads.

That’s a wild exaggeration, but I did grow up in a city that was one of the first in the nation to decriminalize marijuana.

In 1972, when I was a high school freshman in Ann Arbor, Mich., the city council passed an ordinance making possession of small amounts of marijuana a civil infraction, subject to a $5 fine. The penalty has since been raised to $25.

The vote made national headlines, but as I recall, it seemed almost anti-climatic. The vote — challenged in court but later reaffirmed by a voter referendum — wasn’t nearly as exciting as having John Lennon and Yoko Ono come to town.

They came in 1971, just as the pro-weed, anti-war movement was starting to take hold in Ann Arbor. They took part in the John Sinclair Freedom Rally, named for the hippie poet and activist who’d been sentenced to 10 years in a Michigan prison for giving two joints to an undercover police officer.

No way was my mother going to let me or any of my siblings go to the rally. But I can still remember some of the lyrics to the song Lennon wrote for it. (“It ain’t fair, John Sinclair / In the stir for breathing air ….) And thanks to 21st century technology, my grown children can see a clip of Lennon performing his song “John Sinclair” on the video-sharing website, YouTube.

Why this blast from the past? Because I’ve written more marijuana stories in the last few months than I have in the last few decades.

There was some serious debate on marijuana in the Indiana Statehouse last session. Some observers scoffed at a failed pot-decriminalization proposal floated by liberal Democratic Sen. Karen Tallian of Portage and a Libertarian-like Republican senator, Brent Steele of Bedford.

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